Merry Christmas in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
Our gospel for today is in two parts. The first part deals with the response to the shepherds to the revelation of the angels in the field. "That a Savior has been born to you today, in the city of David, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you; you will find the child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. "
Let’s go!, the shepherds shouted. They wanted to see this miracle with their own eyes. Not to verify the angel's message; they believed the word that had been preached to them. “And they came quickly, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. And seeing him, they made known what had been said about the child. And all who heard were amazed at what the shepherds told them. "
The story caused a stir in Bethlehem the next day. Bethlehem lay south of Jerusalem, its original name was Ephrata, and it was also the hometown of King David. The prophet Micah (Micah 5: 2-4) prophesied that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
"But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart."
Because of prophecy, many people marveled, but few take the time to meditate on the great facts of our salvation. Only Mary is mentioned as an exception.
The second part happened 40 days later, when Maria had much more to think about. Mary and Joseph observed all the rites and ceremonies of Jewish law. These forty days were the days of ritual cleansing or purification of the woman after her delivery. At the end of this period, the parents went up to Jerusalem with the child to present him to the Lord, because the firstborn of man and beast belonged to the Lord, and had to be redeemed from Temple service with a sacrifice. Since Mary and Joseph were poor, therefore, Mary brought the least expensive sacrifice according to the book of Leviticus. Then she paid five pieces of silver into the Temple treasury.
A man named Simeon, well versed in the prophecies about the Messiah and led by the Holy Spirit, recognized the Child Jesus in the arms of his mother, when the parents came to perform the sacrifice according to the law of Moses. Now the venerable old man did something that must have astonished both Mary and Joseph very much. He approached them, took the baby in his arms, and proceeded to sing a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God.
Lord, now dismiss your servant in peace, according to your word; For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples; a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel. "
Simeon then blessed by Joseph and Mary and addressed Mary with a meaningful prophecy. “Behold, this one is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel; and for a sign that will be contradicted (and a sword will also pierce your very soul), so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. "
This child is established by the will of God, with a dual purpose. First of all, for the fall and resurrection of many in Israel, the true Israel, the members of the kingdom of God. The natural pride and self-righteousness of every man, which is characteristic of the inherited depravity of man, must fall and be completely eliminated, before the resurrection in faith in Jesus the Savior can take place. Second, it serves as a signal that there will be those who will oppose, and speak against Jesus. Many people, indeed most, refuse to be humiliated because of this Savior, even though they are offered the assurance of the coming glory in faith in Him. In this way the thoughts of men's hearts are revealed. Many prominent Jews, whose reputations testified to their perfect piety, rejected their own salvation.
By the way, this state of affairs would be a severe test for Mary. Her mother's heart would feel more deeply the hatred directed against her Son. It would often be like a double-edged sword piercing her soul, as when she witnessed the crucifixion with the accompanying tortures. Simeon was not the only faithful soul in Jerusalem at that time.
“There was also Hannah, the prophetess, daughter of Fanuel, of the tribe of Asher; which was great of age, and had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity; and she was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not leave the temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers. "
She also gave thanks, took the tension that had started with the elderly Simeon, praising God for having sent his Savior into the world, who was in such dire need of redemption. For there were still some, though only a few, who were earnestly and prayerfully awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem, through the work of the Savior from sins.
“And when they had accomplished all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their city of Nazareth. And the child grew, and became strong in spirit, full of wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. " Which means, far from Bethlehem in Nazareth, Jesus was not affected in his youth by everything that happened in Bethlehem.
Well, the application for us is we must meditate on the Word of God in our hearts. Salvation is by grace alone. However, someone paid the price for our sins, the Son of Mary. The basis of our faith and hope is not good feelings and wishful thinking. It is the blood of Christ shed on the cross. It is not possible for this truth to pierce our souls like the soul of Mary, but, we must bear in mind that the Passion of Christ was the consequence of our disobedience. Let us remember that to get up in the new life it is necessary to fall, that is, to recognize and repent of our sins. Therefore, the focus of Advent weeks should be weeks of reflection and prayer, like Lent. Now we celebrate Christmas, but with much more depth if we have an understanding of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made. From repentance and renunciation of bad desires comes joy and peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
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